(I wrote this over the course of a few nights, but it never quite was finished 'til now--been a busy week...figured a late post is better than never)
This is the first year that I've been able to catch a significant number of ballgames on the radio in quite a while, thanks to a combination of being able to record games on my XM Radio for later listening, and having a lot of lab work that invites uninterrupted hours to listen to ballgames.
This week, Joe Nuxhall has been calling games in one of his rare appearances this season. And my goodness, it's been nice.
Joe was not my favorite announcer when I was a kid. He tends to allow reasonably long periods of silence when on the air, is prone to monotone delivery when not much is happening in the ballgame, and is prone to errors at times, like calling the Reds' centerfielder "Norris Harper." Or calling a Gonzalez single a home run earlier this week.
But this season, the games for which he's been behind the mike have been my favorite listening experiences of the season. Here are a couple of the reasons:
1. He's has much better skills as announcer than I remember him having. I tended to focus on his occasional slowness as a kid, but the guy can pick it up nicely when the situation calls for it. He also does a nice job of painting the scene.
2. He's a better analyst than I remembered. He understands the game in the way only a player can, of course, but he also avoids launching into the absolutes that announcers are prone to do. And that makes him better.
3. He actually calls the game. I often find that I have a hard time following the action when one of the Brennamen are calling games because they tend to focus more on what's happening in the booth--be it a trivia question, a rant, or what have you--than what is actually happening on the ball field. Joe, in contrast, focuses almost entirely on what is happening on the diamond. Furthermore, I like to have consistent reminders of who is on what base, how many outs there are, what the score is, etc, and Joe provides that with great regularity. With Marty, you're lucky to get such an update once an inning.
4. (probably most importantly) He's positive. I am so tired of hearing the other three radio announcers rag on our team. As far as Marty et al. were concerned, this season was headed down the tubes from the moment spring training began--at least, that's the impression I had listening to them. I don't need my team's announcers to tell me how bad this team is. I know their record. I want to have a reason to listen, and it certainly isn't to listen to Marty Brennaman talk about trivia or rant how bad the players are.
It's ok to identify when something bad has happened (e.g. "so-and-so-pitcher has no clue where the plate is right now," or "why is it that Coutlangus was sent down instead of Coffey?"). But the absolute disgust and guilty-until-proven-innocent approach that the three regular Reds announcers have for the vast majority of Reds players is a real disservice to the team. The problem is that baseball is a game in which players fail more often than they succeed, which means that being pessimistic about a player will usually make you look credible.
I think I saw Slyde once state that he'd like the announcers to dedicate at least one inning per game to talking about the good qualities of a Reds player. If I were Bob Castellini, I'd mandate that. Because as it is, all the regular announcers are doing is driving fans away from this Reds team.
So anyway, cheers to Joe for doing such a terrific job and bringing some extra enjoyment to my afternoons this week.
Update: I just noticed that Marty got a contract extension. Good for him, I guess. But I'm not positive that it's good for the franchise.